Further funding supports for nursing homes being considered

Minister for Older Persons Mary Butler in talks to expand scope of finance schemes for care of elderly

The Department of Health is in talks to expand the scope of funding schemes for nursing homes dealing with Covid-19 cases and higher running costs due to inflation.

Discussions are ongoing with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to extend the temporary assistance payment scheme (Taps), the State support scheme to help nursing homes manage Covid-19 outbreaks that expired at the end of last year, until the end of March.

The departments are also in talks to expand the scope of the temporary inflation payment scheme (Tips), the €10 million scheme introduced in November to help nursing homes reduce the cost of higher electricity and gas bills as a result of energy inflation.

Minister for Older Persons Mary Butler is also in talks with officials at the Department of Health about paying increased funding to nursing homes that are not in a position to negotiate increased fees through the State’s Fair Deal scheme for nursing home care.


Fair Deal

Under the €1 billion-a-year subsidy scheme, nursing homes agree a “deed of agreement” contract with the State’s National Treatment Purchase Fund specifying the maximum price a nursing home can charge Fair Deal residents for long-term residential care.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said she was in talks with department officials “to examine ways in which funding can continue to be used to provide support, where necessary and appropriate, to those nursing homes which are not scheduled to renegotiate their deeds of agreement this year”.

“Other options to support nursing homes are also being explored,” she said.

The nursing home sector has lobbied for increased fees to be paid under the scheme, arguing that Fair Deal does not cover the increased cost of healthcare amid rising overheads, including staff costs and the financial cost of meeting higher regulatory expectations for care facilities.

Increased costs and regulatory requirements have forced the closure of some nursing homes. Last year, 18 nursing homes with a combined 545 beds said they would close their doors.

Closure of homes

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, the representative body for private nursing home owners, said that while it welcomed the Minister’s efforts to address the “incessant cost pressures on nursing home care,” higher Fair Deal funding was required.

“What we need is a commitment to an immediate, additional across-the-board increase in Fair Deal funding for all nursing homes,” he said.

“Without such support, it is inevitable that there will be further closures. We look forward to immediate engagement with the Minister to save our nursing homes.”

The Taps support scheme has helped nursing homes to the tune of €145 million since it was introduced to help care facilities with the increased costs of managing Covid-19 outbreaks.

The Government provided more than €40 million in additional funding for the Fair Deal scheme, officially known as the Nursing Home Support Scheme, providing an increase in the maximum prices chargeable by private and voluntary nursing homes as negotiated.

Tips funding covers up to 75 per cent of year-on-year energy and heating cost increases for nursing homes up to a monthly cap of €5,250 per month for the final five months of last year.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent